And another one of those clever, simple, "illuminating" ideas you smack your head about saying "Why didn't I think of this ?" An exciting new Kickstarter project called CordLite: an illuminated charger cable for your iPhone.
For Mac and iPhone users who have been looking for a great Mail alternative, check out Sparrow. This is an elegant, simple, straightforward email program that I have been using concurrently to Mail for a while now and love dearly. Version 1.3 for the iPhone now adds POP email support (originally it was IMAP only and at first was just a Gmail client but has evolved since) which, from that perspective, brings it to parity with the Mac version. The site's iPhone page has a cute "emulator" that shows you what happens when you apply specific clicks or swipes to the app. If you integrate it with your FaceBook account it will pick up your friend's profile pictures into your mail messages. Definitely worth the detour.
A few months back I wrote about what we hoped would one day be an Apple branded television experience. The idea was that Apple would come out with a big screen TV that would revolutionize the way we watch the tube today (that is, for those of us who still watch TV following a network imposed schedule of some sort). But the truth is that, to some extent, that Apple branded TV experience already exists. I am of course talking here about the $99 little hockey puck sized "Apple TV".
Interestingly enough I did not get it for the same reason that most people buy it for. Typical users of this item are looking to access online content easily (be it iTunes or Netflix for movies and TV series, or else to get the MLB.com, NHL or NBA channels for sports). Until we bought the Apple TV the only item hooked up to our main TV by HDMI was another little box called the WDTV. Current models can stream content over the internet, but our old model did only one thing, but did it well: it allowed us to hook up external hard drives chockfull of AVI and MP4 files and watch them on a dedicated HDMI channel on the family TV. Enter the new Apple TV. No longer do we need to worry about hooking up hard drives to anything, anywhere. This new little box lives on the home WiFi netwrok, accesses any iTunes library within reach that has Home Sharing turned on (a feature within iTunes) and can play that content anytime. This includes music, podcasts or even photos. In addition, anyone with an iPod touch, iPhone or iPad can beam content to the Apple TV and watch it on the big screen instantaneously.
But there is a limitation: all this works very well so long as the files being played are MP4s. What about AVI files ?I spent some time researching possible solutions. Apple does not officially support that format. There are solutions out there that involve on the fly conversions of streaming files, but that looked way too complicated. I needed somehting the kids could manage without calling tech-support every time they want to watch something on TV. I ended up discovering a neat little $7 Mac app called Beamer. Nothing could be simpler: when you open Beamer you get a little window that says "Drop Movie Here". You drag the AVI file over to that window on your Mac and just like magic the file starts playing on your TV through Apple TV. In essence any computer within WiFi range of the Apple TV can thus beam AVI files to the TV and you can use either the Apple TV included remote or any iPod/iPhone/iPad with the Remote app installed to control the video experience.
Overall I am quite impressed with this $99 little Apple product. For now it is sold as a niche product, and few casual iPhone or iPad fans are even aware of its existence. But it made me rethink whether Apple actually need to enter the physical TV business at all. The same way they now include an MLB.com or NBA channel, couldn't they include HBO or CNN, FOX and CBS ? These could even be apps on one's iPhone or iPad and would beam straight to an Apple TV. There are so many ways that this could work, provided of course that Apple find a way to convince the current "gatekeepers" to play along. One of the main problems at the moment is the fact that a great number of Cable TV providers also pump internet service into people's homes. I can't imagine the Cable TV companies rolling over and letting Apple eat into their profits without putting up a fight. But in the long term the old model of Cable TV subscriptions is bound to come to an end. Those who realise early that the rules are being rewritten and manage to roll with the punches and reinvent themselves will stand a better chance of surviving. I have no doubt that five years from now TV viewing will look nothing like what we have today, and the type of innovation that is driving that change is available to us today, for a mere $99.
There had been so many rumors about the new retina display on the 3rd generation of iPads that I was convinced, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that rather than present a line-up of iPads with 16, 32 and 64 GB, the new line-up would consist of 32, 64 and 128 GB units. Imagine my disappointment when I realized we would probably have to wait one more year for that change to take place. Let's face it: in order to take advantage of the retina display, owners of the new machines will want to watch 1080p video, they'll want apps that have higher resolutions than the current ones etc. All of that takes up a lot of space. I don't have enough room on my 1st generation iPad with 64 GB so how would things work out with the new one ?
Time will tell. Already we see that only a handful of apps were properly rewritten to take advantage of the new screen resolution. Even Instapaper, the app everyone expected would be ready on the day the new iPad came out, has not yet been released because of a last minute surprise from Apple. The Apple apps that were updated last week already show the bloat that accompanies the higher resolution, and in actuality some of the universal iPhone/iPad apps will carry the bloat over to the iPhone as well.
No doubt the reason for this decision by Apple has to do with the cost of flash memory. Chances are no 128 GB units could be produced to match the price of current 64 GB iPads. So the question is do I wait one more year before upgrading ?
There is an entire cottage industry growing up around the iOS eco-system. One such product category has to do with integrating the iPad into your home with as little fuss as possible. A new entry in that field is the LaunchPort. Check out the video for a quick overview of this system. While Steve Jobs would no doubt have approved of the clean and wire free look, most people will balk at the price tag: the PowerShuttle that snaps onto the iPad itself is $149 while the two docks on offer, the WallStation and the BaseStation, are $199 each. Not for everyone.
Like most Apple products users, I have never met Steve Jobs. I have never even seen him. I went to a few MacWorld Expos in my day, but I never ran into the man. And yet, like many people across thre world, I am walking around with some sadness in my heart. Millions of people seem to feel this way about a man they didn't really know, let alone ever meet.
But in some ways we have all come across the man's work, one way or another. In my case it started early on. I read about the introduction of the first Macintosh computer in a French montlhy comics magazine in 1984, two years before I moved to the States. In 1986, after I moved, I got my hands on a friend's "FatMac" (the 512k model) and it was love at first sight. I ended up buying a brand new Mac Plus in January of 1987 and it changed my life. Other Apple products, both hardware and software, have had that effect over the years. And so I have spent some time today thinking about what it was that I loved so much in these products and what I appreciated so much in Steve's work. And then it finally hit me: Steve Job was an ENABLER (in the positive sense only, of course). What he was creating enabled me to be my best, to strive further, to try harder, to better myself and learn new skills. It allowed me to express myself to my fullest.
In my case the biggest breakthrough was probably video. In 1999 Steve Jobs presented to the world his second iteration of iMacs: the iMac DV (by the way the link goes to a very cute short video). It was the first FireWire enabled consumer Apple model. It came bundled with a new program called iMovie. When Steve explained what the program could do he said something like "we feel video is going to be a big thing on the Mac" (apologies if I didn't get his words exactly right, chances are that footage is alive somewhere on YouTube). I have since graduated from iMovie to Final Cut Pro and am still involved in a learning process that I am absolutely passionate about. And all of that happened because Steve Jobs enabled me to find in myself something I didn't even know was there. He allowed me to channel my creativity in a direction that I didn't even know I was interested in exploring. That's not to say that I am any good at any of it, but that's not the point. He enabled this by handing us the tools. And he chaperoned other such projects in other fields for others as well. Starting with desktop publishing in the 80s and including music throughout his career. He made it possible for the doctor to check his patient's MIR results on an iPad and for comics readers to obtain their favourite hero's adventures over the air the same day it comes out in print.
We all have our own story about the ways Steve's creations affected our lives, and that is why we feel the way we do and it explains the outpouring of sentiment we have seen online these past 24 hours. Expressions of feelings about a man we never met, a man we didn't really know, but one who somehow managed to touch each of us individually.
Tim Cook, Apple CEO, sent the following email to Apple employees on Wednesday:
I have some very sad news to share with all of you. Steve passed away earlier today.
Apple has lost a visionary and creative genius, and the world has lost an amazing human being. Those of us who have been fortunate enough to know and work with Steve have lost a dear friend and an inspiring mentor. Steve leaves behind a company that only he could have built, and his spirit will forever be the foundation of Apple.
We are planning a celebration of Steve’s extraordinary life for Apple employees that will take place soon. If you would like to share your thoughts, memories and condolences in the interim, you can simply email email@example.com.
No words can adequately express our sadness at Steve’s death or our gratitude for the opportunity to work with him. We will honor his memory by dedicating ourselves to continuing the work he loved so much.
I am going to do something I never have before: make predictions about tomorrow's iPhone event. Judging by the invitation Apple sent out last week (appearing above) here are my own conclusions. First the obvious stuff: the Calendar icon shows Tuesday the 4th. Simple enough: the event takes place tomorrow, October 4th. The Clock icon shows 10 o'clock. No problem there either. The Maps icon shows the location which is inside the Apple campus. And finally the Phone icon shows a "1". This is where the confusion starts. We have heard so many rumours of two new iPhones coming out: an iPhone 5 and a "cheap(er)" model, maybe called the 4s. Case manufacturers have gone so far as to create cases using a brand new form factor that does not correspond to the iPhone 4 size, simply based on rumours and inuendos, and all so that they can be first to market with a product and hope to cash in that way. Quite a gamble if you ask me.
Personally I don't think we are going to see two models, and I have a feeling that the number 1 in the phone icon is exactly that: 1 model. Furthermore I believe that the form factor will be identical, externally at least, to the iPhone 4. There is really nothing wrong with that form factor. We can surmise that one or maybe both cameras will get an upgrade, most likely to 8 megapixels for the outward-facing camera. And chances are the processor will be the A5 dual core chip we know from the iPad 2. It is also possible that this new model will work on both GSM and CDMA networks. The fact that the event is taking place at Apple's campus also points, in my opinion, to the fact that this is not viewed by Apple as a "revolutionary" event but rather an evolutionary one. Hence my thought about the form factor again. And maybe low key enough that the name of the new product will actually not be the iPhone 5 but something like an iPhone 4S or 4GS.
But maybe most importantly we should read a lot into that little line of text at the bottom: Let's talk iPhone. It would appear that the biggest news about this particular new iPhone will be the Nuance technology built in. They might as well have written: Let's talk TO the iPhone. Rumours are rife with news of advanced tech built into the phone that might turn it into the first phone people talk to regularly. We had seen some of it a while ago when some other Nuance software was announced. But this time it looks as though Apple may have gone all out, and we might not be far from those images seen anywhere from "2001 A Space Odyssey" to shows like "Star Trek", however for now we shouldn't expect our phone to talk back to us much...yet.
Two anouncements will surround the Jewish New Year: tomorrow morning, hours before the start of festivities, Amazon will anounce their new touchscreen media consuming iPad competitor believed to be called the Kindle Fire, and a couple of days after the holiday, Apple are set to anounce on October 4 what is expected to be the next iPhone, believed by some to be called the iPhone 5 and others the 4s (or will it be both ?). A great number of tech luminaries feel very strongly that if there ever was a company capable, and well enough positioned, to give Apple a run for its money, it is Amazon. And I tend to agree with that opinion. Both companies will have the hardware and the content, and in essence will control their entire eco-system, which is exactly what HP, RIM and countless other tablet manufacturers, be they android-based or otherwise, were not bringing to the table.
Our inclination would be to believe that Apple and Amazon are going to butt heads in this business. Interestingly enough their approaches are diametrically opposed. Of course both companies are looking to make this a succesful business, but each of them are looking to sell something else entirely. Amazon will in fact sell a tablet, but they are not looking to make money on the tablet. Amazon are in the business of selling content, of driving customers to their online store for stuff, be they bits or widgets. Their tablet(s) are just a means to an end. Apple, however, do sell content, but only as a means to sell more tablets. They offer the content as an enticement, to justify laying out the big bucks for the iPad, the iPod touch, the iPhone. I would not be surprised if at some point certain Kindle models are given out for free. As is, the current Kindle3 is sold at slightly over $100. Apple regularly offer free stuff on the iTunes store. Why not, if it means you'll be more eager to buy their hardware.
And so it is clear that things are about to get a lot more interesting in the world of Tech. Which leads me to wish us all a happy, sweet New Year.
I am looking forward to the amazing opportunity of serving as CEO of the most innovative company in the world. Joining Apple was the best decision I've ever made and it's been the privilege of a lifetime to work for Apple and Steve for over 13 years. I share Steve's optimism for Apple's bright future.
Steve has been an incredible leader and mentor to me, as well as to the entire executive team and our amazing employees. We are really looking forward to Steve's ongoing guidance and inspiration as our Chairman.
I want you to be confident that Apple is not going to change. I cherish and celebrate Apple's unique principles and values. Steve built a company and culture that is unlike any other in the world and we are going to stay true to that-it is in our DNA. We are going to continue to make the best products in the world that delight our customers and make our employees incredibly proud of what they do.
I love Apple and I am looking forward to diving into my new role. All of the incredible support from the Board, the executive team and many of you has been inspiring. I am confident our best years lie ahead of us and that together we will continue to make Apple the magical place that it is.
Sometime around 3:30 AM Israel time, just as news of Steve Jobs' resignation hit the airwaves, Rafi sat down to write the thoughts that were going through his mind.
Just a few thoughts:
1) Why did Steve Jobs resign?
a - because his health doesn't allow him to continue - in that case, even as Chairman we cannot expect him to stay for too long
b - in order to make the unavoidable move in a time of success and prosperity for the company so as to minimize the negative effects of such a move. That would show that there is a clear succession, he remains somewhere at the helm, and all is good. Also, leave enough time before the next keynote.
2) AAPL: I expect it to fall and then rise again when a) people will realize that the company is still a great one and b) when people will start re-buying the stock at a "bargain" price which will drive its price back up. If the next products will continue to be bestsellers and quarterly results will be as before then there's no reason it wouldn't be less good than any other company if not, of course, much better.
Regarding buying AAPL stock, I was always worried about the day Steve Jobs will pass. But I didn't expect him to resign before. So now this unfortunate event is still something to come, even after his resignation. So if his role as chairman will still give him a heavy weight in the company's decisions then his passing may still cause yet another stock fall. Otherwise, the stock should not be too much affected by it.
Let's just hope Steve will continue to live for many more years and have a lot to say at the company so that we, the customers, will continue to enjoy from their great "magical" products.
3) What will change?
I think that's really the most interesting question of all. Steve has instilled his managerial ways into the company. Apple operates according to certain rules which will certainly continue to exist. Steve even created a course to learn "his" ways of managing the company. So I'm assuming that in the big picture we won't see too many changes.
I think it's not clear to us how much influence he really had in different areas of the company. He was clearly involved in everything, but did he come up with all these ideas? Certainly many different engineers came up with bright ideas, but Steve was probably the one to decide "which idea would live and which idea would die" or which should be changed (that option is missing from "Unetane Tokef") Could someone else make those decisions as "correctly" as Steve? And by "correctly" I mean his knack for knowing what the customers really need or what the customers would really prefer.
I actually think we will see the changes more in the little things. My feeling is we will have less of those drastic overturns where something you were trusting for years will suddenly no longer be supported because the new way is the "right" way (floppy disks, .mac, MobileMe - just to name a few). Or iOS apps rejection rules changing all the time and angering many developers and other similar brutal rejections which you can take or leave.
Another thing we will probably miss is what he certainly does behind the scenes when closing deals with mega-companies, and by that I mean what he did with the music labels, the movie studios, and now with books and magazine publishers. Certainly he played a big role in negotiating lucrative contracts for Apple.
So let's wait and see the history unfold. It will certainly be interesting.
Let's just hope that the way history will unfold will also still remain favorable for us, the customers.